L'Invention: fastest ship of her day

From an unknown newspaper [Guernsey Press?] of January 10th, 1939, in Carol Toms' scrapbook I., 'Famous L'Invention of Guernsey.' 'Fastest ship of her day, probably the first four master to carry yards on all her masts, the famous Guernsey ship L'Invention is picturised in the Guernsey Museum and a similar picture was used as Christmas cards by 'The Cachalot's' Club,' of Southampton.'

The logbook of this ship is in the Library collection. Made up of two logs bound together, it was donated to the Guille-Allès Library (whence it was transferred to the Priaulx Library local history collection), by the Misses N amd M Tardif, of Le Friquet, St Martin's, in September, 1927. Please contact a Librarian for more information.

Some years ago, writes 'R.R.G.' in the Hampshire Advertiser, the Southampton master Mariners' Club, 'The Cachalots,' were recipients of an old watercolour, painted in Naples in 1802/3, of the four-masted, full-rigged sailing ship L'Invention, of Guernsey.

The Club selected the ship for reproduction on a Christmas card, and since they were sent out, much speculation has arisen as to whether she was the first four-masted ship ever built that carried yards on all four masts.

The Bill of Sale announcement [on the back of the painting] says:

'For sale at Brewer's The London Tavern, Plymouth, on Friday the 9th October next (1801) at Ten O'clock forenoon the handsome Ship L'Invention, of the following dimensions: Length on Lower Deck 135ft 5ins, Ditto of Keel per Tonnage 121-3 and five-eighths, Breadth Extreme 27-5½, Moulded 27-1; Height between Decks 4.9; Depth in the Hold 9-4, and Admeasures 484 44/94 Tons.'

She is quite new, and was built at Bordeaux, under the immediate care and Inspection of Citizen Thibaut, a celebrated Member of the Society of Arts and Sciences and Belles Lettres; and fitted with Four Masts, which have been found to answer extremely well, in her sailing even before the wind; she is allowed by the first Master Builders, by whom she has been examined, to be an exceedingly well and fine built Vessel, of a beautiful Form and Model; her superiority of Sailing had enabled her to elude the Vigilance of our best Frigates, and she was only taken after a Chace of Ten Hours, and the Loss of Top Masts in a Fog, and Heavy Sea, which also prevented her escape by her Sweeps, worked by an entire new and novel Machine of Singular Simplicity and Effect.

She abounds in Stores which are all new, and of the best Materials; has a neat Figure Head; a deep Waist; and is full coppered to the Wales; mounts 24 Guns, and appears well-calulated for an East India Packet, the Southern or Whale Fishery, or Straits Trade, and is a Prize to His Majesty's Ship of War Immortalité.'

L'Invention was purchased by a firm of Guernsey Merchants,¹ it is recorded, and made several voyages between the North Coast of America and the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, &c., commanded by Peter Tardif, a native of Guernsey, and also had a Letter of Marque—a few years later she was sold out of the island and afterwards lost off the River Plate.

The Curator of the Lukis and Island Museum, Guernsey, has written to the Cachalots Club asking whether he might have a copy of their Christmas card. 'In this museum,' he writes, 'we have a picture of L'Invention as well as the advertisement of her sale at Plymouth and the Letter of Marque granted to her when she was commanded by Peter Tardif. Her log-book for four years is in the Guille-Allès Library in this island.²

I have recently read that she was the first four-masted ship ever built that carried yards on all four masts, that her privateer owner, to whose specification she was built, believed that she would prove to be the fastest ship afloat and that she was captured by a British frigate only eight days after she sailed on her maiden voyage. She was running away from one British frigate when she had the bad luck to encounter another.'

¹ Carteret Priaulx. Nicolas Le Mesurier wrote to them from Buenos Aires December 12 1810, 'L'Invention, formerly your ship, was lost in this river about three months ago; it is certainly very dangerous, as I never experienced such difficult navigation the evening before my arrival here. I came to an anchor in three fathoms water and on the ebbing of the tide the Brothers stuck several times and I immediately hove the anchor up and fortunately got into deeper water without sustaining any damage.' From The Carteret Priaulx Commerce Papers, in the Library.

² Now in the Priaulx Library. See also, John Sarre, 'The ship l'Invention 1801-1805 and her prize,' RTSG 1987, pp., 466 ff.; and his 'The misfortunes of Captain Peter Tardif,' Review of the Guernsey Society, Summer 1992. The Candie Museum holds an original copy of the 1801 Bill of Sale. An article concerning the logbooks and extracts from them can be found in the Library's Shipping files, Ships F-I.